There’s one thing that has been rather disturbing at the beginning of my career as a Product Manager.
Nobody understands what that means.
In France especially, not long ago, job boards used to display “Product Manager” positions which would lead you directly to managing the stock of your local supermarket.
Sadly, that is still a bit true today. I have the impression that I spend more time explaining what I do, and what I’m trying to reach, than actually doing it.
Well OK, things are starting to evolve. As usual, US is a little ahead of Europe on that matter. But I’ve seen lately multiple groups and meet-ups that work on popularizing clear definitions of that position, providing training to Junior Product Managers, and lobbying HR and head hunters into shaping proper job offers.
The ubi i/o program included a workshop around Product Management. If I personally felt like I heard and/or directly experienced most of what was presented and discussed, I still enjoyed meeting Senior Product Management persons who seemed to share the same thoughts, and in whose experiences I recognized myself. Especially when those persons were the following:
- Alexandra Levich – ChromeOS Product Manager at Google
- Lance Peterson – Product Manager at August Home
- Michael Aidane – Senior Director Product Management at RadiumOne
Basically, it is essential to understand that the full-fledged Product Management position impacts your whole organization. It is not just writing product specifications, maintaining a roadmap or doing pre-sales. It is also about:
- streamlining the business strategy according to the market problems,
- leveraging the company assets which actually actually support in bringing a solution to those problems,
- making sure that the rest of the job is done by the right third parties which have the recognized expertise in it,
- making sure that the (dev) teams are having the right discussion at the right moment,
- finding the best way of transforming that awesome product into money,
- getting the sales channel ready.
Not saying that all of this is the sole responsibility of the Product Manager, of course. But I’ve heard many times that a Product Manager can be seen as the “Mini CEO of the Product”. If that can put things in perspective. It is also true that having one person involved in all of those activities at once mostly happens in start-up environments. Large corporations will need to split up the role in several positions, or even departments.
But to quote Alexandra, here are a few words that tell about who the Product Manager is:
Visionary Evangelist Project manager Analyst Problem solver Cheerleader Janitor Optimist Pessimist Power User.
To round up, at the time I was really starting to wonder: “What the hell is my job? Am I even having the right expectations on what I should be doing?”, I discovered the Pragmatic Marketing Framework.
Even if it probably shouldn’t be seen as the Holy Grail, it is a great way of formalizing all of the activities on orbit around Product Management. Besides, many talented and successful people contribute to the Pragmatic Framework’s site on a regular basis, by writing blog posts and best practices on each activity.
I definitely recommend to keep an eye on new publications.
Featured image by Michael Seeley